The survey was entitled “Natural/Birth Mom Perceptions in Open Adoption.” The parameters were that 1) the respondents must have entered into Open Adoptions at the birth or shortly after the birth of their child and 2) they were not biologically related to the adoptive family.
A link to the survey was shared on Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress over a 2 week timeframe between September 9-September 25, 2017. In all, there were 78 respondents. After filtering out the respondents that did not meet the parameters, 67 remained. The following is a summary of those responses. A link to the survey will be posted at the end. Also, please follow us here, and on Twitter and Facebook for more surveys. Please scroll to the end for more information on our next survey. Facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1571159579602138/
Questions 2 and 3 were required in order to set the parameters: Open Adoption and non-related adoptive family. The remaining questions were optional.
67 respondents entered into Open Adoptions from the birth or shortly after birth of their child with non-related adoptive families.
Here is an overview of the results:
- 5% of mothers have placed more than 1 child. There was no accounting in regards to this being due to multiples and/or separate events.
- 2% of mothers placed when they were 14 years old or younger
- 44% of mothers placed when they were 15-19 years old
- 37% of mothers placed when they were 20-25 years old
- 100% of respondents placed after 1980
There were a variety of reasons as to why mothers placed their child for adoption. The most frequent answer was due to financial struggles in 68% of cases. It was followed by Coerced/Threatened at 56%, Unwed at 47%, and Age at 34%. A general “lack of support” was mentioned in the “other” comment section, “No family willing to support either financially or emotionally.” Another mother responded, “illegal alien and no family to help.”
The responses were rounded out with conceived by rape at 11%, homeless at 10%, abortion alternative at 10%, “God’s will” at 7%, did not want to parent at 5%, and Addiction at 0%.
Mothers answered questions about who in their lives supported an adoption plan including family, friends, and the child’s father.
In regards to family, the most prevalent response at 28% was that they were the ones who coerced/threatened mothers into placing. In 20% of cases, the respondent families did not support an adoption plan. A common response in the “other” comments section was that their pregnancy was hidden from family, “No one except the father knew about my pregnancy. He was also the one who coerced me.” Another responded, “They didn’t know I was pregnant and told them after my son was placed.”
In regards to friends, the most prevalent response at 44% was that they were indifferent to an adoption plan. It was closely followed by friends who supported an adoption plan at 35%. Again, secrecy of the respondent’s pregnancy was mentioned in the “other” comments section, “Didn’t tell them, I isolated myself while pregnant. I believe I was depressed.”
In regards to the child’s father, the answers were diverse and evenly dispersed. The father being supportive of an adoption plan was the most common response at 25% closely followed by the father coercing/threatening adoption at 17%.
- 4% of respondents answered that adoption facilitators advised the respondent not to tell the child’s father of an adoption plan
- 68% of adoptions were facilitated by an agency
- 25% of adoptions were facilitated by a private attorney
- 61% of respondents chose the adoptive family
- 67% of adoptions occurred after a physical meeting between the expectant mother and prospective adoptive families
- 8% of respondents received living expenses from an agency/attorney
- 8% of respondents received living expenses from the eventual adoptive parents
- 6% of respondents received a “lump sum” of money after signing TPR (Termination of Parental Rights)
44% of respondents answered that the agency/attorney offered adoption counseling. 42% of respondents answered that they received adoption counseling prior to placement.
At birth, the adoptive family was present in the hospital delivery room in 20% of incidents. They were in the hospital waiting room in 19% of incidents. The adoption agent/attorney was present in the hospital delivery room in 1% and waiting room in 11% of incidents.
When it came to signing TPR (Termination of Parental Rights), 37% of respondents signed while recovering from childbirth in the hospital. There were various and evenly dispersed responses as to when TPR was signed after birth. The most common responses at 23% were respondents who signed between 23-48 hours after birth and respondents who signed 11 days or more after birth. They were closely followed by 16% at 24 hours or less, 13% of respondents did not remember, 11% at 4-10 days, and 10% at 49-72 hours.
- 71% of respondents wanted to back out of the adoption decision after birth
- 74% of respondents felt pressured to sign TPR papers
- 30% of respondents were under the influence of pain medications when TPR was signed
- 37% of respondents signed in a State with no revocation period
- 20% of respondents were threatened with legal action after expressing a desire to back out of the adoption
- 76% of respondents believe that their state does not have fair revocation laws
- 80% of respondents wished for a longer revocation timeframe
- 67% of respondents discussed the terms of an Open Adoption with the adoptive family prior to placement
- 55% of agency/attorneys did not explain in detail what the respondent should expect in an Open Adoption
- 3% of respondents were taken to another State in order to deliver
- 7% of respondents spent the end of their pregnancies in a maternity home
In regards to Open Adoption, there were various terms agreed upon. The most prevalent terms included an “evolving” relationship in 26%, physical visitation in 22%, and contact through media in 20% of adoptions. In 50% of adoptions, they would close entirely at one point. In 57% of adoptions, they would close entirely or become more closed over the years. There were a number of comments to explain in detail, “It was more open with frequent visits until the child was 5 and then visits ended.” Another responded, “closed after two or three years, slightly reopened at 13 years per my inquiry, but only given a letter & pictures twice, after that no contact until I initiated when my son was 19.”
If an Open Adoption closed, it most frequently occurred between the child’s 4th and 7th birthdays at 23%. If an Open Adoption closed, it was closed by the adoptive family in all but 1 incident. An additional respondent commented, “agreement of APs and my family.” The most prevalent way an Open Adoption was closed was through silence; Unspoken 36%. One respondent commented, “adoptive parents simply stopped communicating.”
- 49% of respondents have developed a relationship with their child outside of the adoptive family
- 55% of respondents can contact their child any time they desire
Respondents said it was difficult adjusting to being a natural/birth mother in the first year after placement in 92% of incidents. Adjustment over time has gotten harder for 73% of respondents. Open Adoption has not worked well for 76% of respondents.
- 71% of respondents think of their child daily
- 22% of respondents think of their child hourly
- 67% of respondents answered their immediate family has been affected for the worst
- 87% of respondents find adoption anniversary days triggering
- 80% of respondents placed their first child for adoption
- 71% of respondents suffer with insomnia
- 37% of respondents have auto-immune diseases
- 81% of respondents suffer with depression
- 46% of respondents have received counseling directly related to adoption after placement
- 78% of respondents developed PTSD or other mental disorders after placement
- 56% of respondents have considered or attempted suicide directly related to adoption
Respondents were asked what their overall feeling was about Open Adoption. There were various answers, but Anger was the most prevalent at 46%. It was followed by Sadness at 19% and Confusion at 11%. The remaining responses were in single digits. Some responses included, “Happy and grateful at the amazing family we all gained through this adoption” and another respondent, “I feel like I got hijacked[sic] with lies.” When asked if they would recommend Open Adoption to an expectant mother, 81% said they would not.
- 20% of respondents feel their family and the adoptive family have blended into one
- 37% of respondents perceive that their child has suffered in Open Adoption
There were various responses about the perceived adjustment of their child in Open Adoption. “She suffered and didn’t know about me.” Another respondent stated, “Adjusted is too vague a term. She’s well adjusted but hurts.” Two other respondents added, “He has told me many times that he wishes i jad[sic] just aborted him than send him to live with strangers.” And, “He has difficulties but also support to talk about them from all his parents including me.”
- 5% of respondents said agencies/attorneys provided them with resources to parent their child
- 73% of respondents said agencies/attorneys made the respondent feel “selfish” if parenting was chosen
- 84% of respondents said agencies/attorneys referred to them as “birth mother” prior to placement
- 81% of respondents said they were called “selfless”, “brave”, or a similar term by an agency/attorney
- 10% of respondents would consider adoption to be an empowering choice
- 7% of respondents believe that God used them as a vessel to create another family
- 7% of respondents believe that Open Adoption was “God’s plan” for their child
- 4% of respondents would consider placing another child in an Open Adoption
The majority of respondents are in the United States with 91%. The remaining respondents are located in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. In 86% of adoptions, the child was placed with an American adoptive family.
In 61% of adoptions, the respondent answered that the adoptive family did not abide by the Open Adoption Agreement or closed it altogether. In 33% of adoptions, the respondent answered that the adoptive family abided by the Open Adoption Agreement and/or went above and beyond expectations. Legally-binding Open Adoption contracts were in place for 12% of respondents. Legal action to enforce an Open Adoption contract has occurred in 3% of adoptions. There was a desire to take legal action in 44% of adoptions, but the Open Adoption was not a legally-binding contract. In regards to these desires, comments included, “No, I knew that the cost of trying (both financially and to the relationship) would be enormous and that I was unlikely to be successful.” Another respondent, “I didn’t have a legally binding contract… and my son is depressed an anxious. I didnt[sic] want to make it worse.” And another, “I wanted to get her back but was terrified that if I lost I would never see her again.”
In regards to abortion, 60% of respondents consider themselves pro-choice. Of the 67 respondents, 16 answered that they have previously had abortions. Of those, 14 stated that abortion was a decision that they have “been more at peace with.” Two stated that they have “been more at peace with” adoption.
There are 22 respondents who do not have other children. Of the 45 respondents that parented other children, 33 said that the children have suffered with the adoption of their sibling.
- 7% of respondents would consider themselves pro-adoption
- 59% of respondents were not aware that their child’s Original Birth Certificate would be altered and/or sealed
- 86% of respondents believe their contact with their child has been too little
- 89% of respondents wish they would have parented the child they placed for adoption
- 88% of respondents regret that their child was placed for adoption
- 16% of respondents received legal counsel before placement
The following are a sample of free-form responses that respondents were given as an option to offer a final statement. Please take the time to go to the survey link and read through each comment. The respondents took great time and effort to complete the survey and tell some of their own story. There were 38 free-form responses in total, and unfortunately space does not permit to post them all. The survey can be found here:
“I think it is the greatest thing in the world! He is getting old enough to where he is understand where he came from. I am his “aunt” and I love every minute of it. His mother is my best friend, and I have gained so much love and family from this experience! I am married now, but I have considered being an unpaid surrogate for them since they are still unable to have children of their own. When an open adoption is done well, you don’t lose a child, you only gain more family. ”
“It ruined my life.”
“My daughter is nearly 20. It has taken me all this time to “get on with my life” as I was told to do. The impact to my self and my parented children has been profound. I can not speak for my daughter, but I do not suspect that she’s adjusted particularly well either. I was a young woman, taken advantage of by adults with resources I didn’t have, whose only goal was to exploit me and my child. They seem to have gotten away with it entirely. I’ve made a conscious choice not to let them take any more of my life from me now that I’m almost 40, I am “moving on”.
“It has coloured every aspect of my life.”
“Private adoptions should be abolished”
“I did not realize I was surrendering my grandchildren as well . I feel like the adopted mom competes with me and a have no chance . It is harder now than that my child is an adult with many issues because of my choice years ago .”
“After placing my child for open adoption, I did regret it several times over the last 6 years. However, I am extremely happy for choosing the family that I picked. I am extremely grateful for being able to be a part of my child’s life. I’m happy that I was able to give the parents a chance to raise a daughter, provide her with everything I knew I wouldn’t have been able to provide. I have two kept children, unfortunately, only my oldest son lives with me and knows of his little sister. Though I wish that were different too. I am happy she is with the family I chose and has been raised to be such a great and smart child. I cannot express how grateful I am to the parents for allowing my son, my husband and myself to be a part of her life.”
“My views about adoption have changed since I had my son. I do not feel it is as great as society makes it out to be. I think often times (and in my case) there was a lot of pressure to place from family, the maternity home and the agency. I hope I never have to place again because it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I really wish I would have done things differently and were able to parent.”
“Losing my son to adoption destroyed my life and myself for a period of time. It has gotten easier- by which I mean, I am less suicidal as well as very focused and busy parenting my 2nd child. I still struggle with the adoption and strongly regret it. Having an “open” adoption (they write me 2x a year) does nothing to make me feel better and is incredibly painful, not comforting, although he seems to be a happy kid.”
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